Doug Benson’s Netflix doc on Comic-Con gets it surprisingly right

08.04.15 2 years ago


Doug Benson's rambling pot-fueled documentaries are all basically just an excuse for the comic to get very high in different locations, but in the process of putting the latest one together, he and director Ryan Polito have put together something that captures Comic-Con in a very accurate and not romanticized way.

This was a pretty solid year for me and Comic-Con, and so was last year. I enjoyed myself both times, so I guess technically I can't say I hate Comic-Con anymore, although that's been my mantra for a while. I think the accurate way of saying it is that I often hate elements of the experience of Comic-Con. There is a certain amount of hassle that goes with attendance that can just wear on you when you're trying to work, things that might never bother someone who is just attending for pleasure. It's easy to forget when you're working media that the vast majority of people there are not having that version of the experience. They're in those rooms because they love those things and they're having that very pure version of the experience. If I'm cynical about it, that's on me, not on Comic-Con itself.

Having said that, I think Comic-Con has been presented a certain way over the years, both in the media and in films about the event, like Morgan Spurlock's documentary from a few years ago. Doug Benson has had a lot of fun and gotten a lot of mileage out of making pot-themed reactions to Spurlock's films, starting with “Super High Me,” and Netflix just premiered his latest special, “Chronic-Con: Episode 420.” There's a good chunk of it dedicated to him trying to find Spurlock at Comic-Con, using Twitter and social media to slowly track him down. His other goal is to smoke pot with someone in a superhero costume. Those two threads are intercut with live material from his podcast and lots of experiential footage, and overall, what struck me while watching it was just how clearly it feels like a more honest take on what is both good and terrible about it.

One of the few things the film doesn't capture is the way the lines for Hall H have metastasized over the last few years into something truly unpleasant for a majority of the regular fans who want to get into those things. Benson has something more akin to the experience I have, where there's a certain amount of access that is not available to everyone. The random weird way his day unfolds, the encounters with people who are familiar with him, the way he drifts from building to building, from event to party to someone's room… that's something that is familiar not from any one year I've gone but from every year I've gone. It's a little surreal in that actual mutual friends of mine show up at various points, and the entire thing almost feels like deja vu for me.

As a film, it's sort of shambling, just like “The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled,” but it does pay off both of the main storylines well, and it feels like Benson's finally acknowledged what a weird hook it is to keep running riffs on the Morgan Spurlock films.

You can find the film on Netflix now.

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